Coronavirus outbreak: Bookings dip for South East Asian destinations

Topics Coronavirus

A medical ward has been readied at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai to admit those infected by the virus. Photo: Reuters
Travel agents are wary of cancellations of leisure trips to Southeast Asia, even as local governments step up their drive to contain coronavirus. While travel to China is dominated by the business segment, leisure drives growth for markets like Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Thailand — which has detected 14 cases of coronavirus infection (more than any country outside China) — has begun screening tour guides and has asked travel firms to monitor customers for symptoms. Singapore has decided to stop entry or transit to visitors who have travelled to the coronavirus-impacted Hubei region of China in the past 14 days, as well as Chinese passport holders from the region.

Despite such efforts by governments, customer confidence remains thin. “We are seeing a 20-60 per cent drop in bookings to some of the countries in Southeast Asia from India since the news of coronavirus broke. In addition to China, which has witnessed a 59 per cent dip in bookings, the places to which bookings have been affected the most in the past couple of weeks are Hong Kong (57 per cent dip in bookings), Indonesia (31 per cent dip in bookings), Singapore (28 per cent dip in bookings). Bookings to Japan and South Korea seem to be largely unaffected,” said Balu Ramachandran, senior vice-president,

Rajat Bagaria, joint secretary of Travel Agents Federation of India, said travel sentiment is negative at the moment. “Customers are not confirming bookings for Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Macao. We fear our summer business could be hit if the spread of the virus is not contained in the next few weeks.”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong were among top 10 leisure destinations for Indians in 2018, according to aviation consultancy CAPA.  

Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India, said, though there are no advisories against travelling to Southeast Asia, customers remain apprehensive. “We have seen a few cancellations for Thailand. Those having cold and cough are especially anxious of visiting the region,” she said.

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Thomas Cook, however, said it has not seen a reduction in demand for Southeast Asian holidays. “There are concerns about the China coronavirus situation, but we have tours underway across multiple destinations in the region. Our tours to Japan and South Korea continue to see high demand,” it  said.

A section, however, believes leisure trips to Bangkok or Bali could become cheaper as the flu outbreak has led to suspension of tours from China, which is the largest travel market. Last year, over 10 million Chinese visited Thailand, accounting for 30 per cent of all arrivals. China is the second-largest source market for the Philippines. Sectoral experts say a slump in Chinese footfalls in the region would force local hotels and establishments to offer discounts.

“China’s lock-down on entry-exit is sounding alarm bells across key global destinations, as Chinese tourists are a large volume driver and a key contributor to tourism receipts. While containment and preventive measures are being addressed on a war-footing , most tourism stake-holders are already looking at plan-B strategies,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays, MICE, visa), Thomas Cook (India).

Cholada Siddhivarn, tourism authority of Thailand’s director in Mumbai, said the the Royal Thai government was actively working on ensuring the safety of citizens and visitors. “Thorough screenings are being exercised across international airports. According to latest reports, the virus is under control. The tourism authority shall continue to entice tourists across the globe and work closely with the government to maximise communication to all future travellers to maintain our set targets from respective markets.
Corporate impact

From carmaking to electronics, the virus outbreak is infecting companies around the world with anxiety about the impact on their supplies and earnings.

Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, which manufactures Apple’s iPhones, said it will keep its Chinese units closed until mid-February. Apple said it is preparing for production delays in its supply chain.

McDonald’s and Starbucks closed thousands of stores combined in China; Toyota Motor, too, halted production in the country.  Swedish furniture giant Ikea has temporarily closed half of its 30 stores.

Search for vaccine  

In a major breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus, scientists at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity claimed to have developed a lab-grown version of the disease, helping vaccine search. On the other hand, Russia said its scientists were working with their Chinese counterparts to develop a vaccine and that Beijing has handed over the genome of the virus to Moscow.

'Deadlier than scars'
  • Centre issues fresh advisory, asks people to refrain from China travel
  • Japan, US pull nationals from China 
  • No in-flight hot meals, blankets, magazines 
  • Asian shares turn red as Hong Kong tumbles
  • 5,974 infected cases in mainland China — more than the 5,327 cases officially reported during the SARS epidemic 17 years ago
  • Nomura says blow to growth could exceed that seen during the SARS outbreak 

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